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Author Topic: “Retro” Toys... When did they become so big?  (Read 1929 times)

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Offline Nemesis

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“Retro” Toys... When did they become so big?
« on: December 07, 2020, 09:15:54 PM »
Over the last few years, I’m sure most of us have noticed the surge in retro/“classic” toys like Basic Fun MLPs, World’s Smallest, and ReAction figures. There were always niche, “geek” markets for things like Silkstone Barbies and Masterpiece Transformers, but lately I’m seeing a lot more retro toys entering the mainstream market. Perhaps most amusing to me are these 90s-era repro handheld games. XD When I was browsing holiday sales last week, I noticed an entire category on Walmart’s website dedicated to “Retro Toys”, up beside ubiquitous categories like “Dolls”, “Cars”, and “Action Figures”.

There have always been retro toys, of course—especially at the holidays, when nostalgic novelty gifts tend to pop up—but it seems like there’s been a much greater saturation in the last half-decade. I’m definitely not complaining, but it does have me curious... I could chalk up the MLPs and such to 80s/90s nostalgia. (From a business perspective, millennials are now largely out of school/uni and in their prime wage-earning years, lol. XD Whenever a generation hits the 25-35 range, there’s a spike in nostalgia-based goods vying for their wallet.) Some of the retro toys are much... “retro-er” than that, though. 60s and 70s toys and franchises seem to be enjoying a comeback as well. I wonder if the shift to streaming entertainment is having a significant influence on the retro trend? Kids today have greater access to previous decades of entertainment than any generation before them. For that matter, so do nostalgic adults.

So... What are your thoughts on it all? Why do you think there’s such a sudden interest in retro-styled toys? Do you collect any?
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Re: “Retro” Toys... When did they become so big?
« Reply #1 on: December 07, 2020, 09:31:55 PM »
I think it's because we're grown ups now and we are some of the people in charge :) As well as what you said, about us having money. I think too, that people from the 80s/90s are in the middle of a huge technological shift. I mean, I'm 38 and grew up with a second hand TV that had a dial on it. I remember when we first had cable. I remember my first cordless phone, etc.

Nostalgia is fun. I saw for sale at Wal-Mart Caboodles. Remember those? They were in the beauty department, I recognized them right away (I still have my blue metallic one XD ).

I don't think I really collect any? I mean, other than MLP and video games.
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Offline brightberry

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Re: “Retro” Toys... When did they become so big?
« Reply #2 on: December 07, 2020, 11:03:29 PM »
I love seeing them but I can only really afford the Basic Fun ponies.  Honestly, I think a lot of generation Z and younger are less into toys than the 90s and 80s kids.  I mean, they still LIKE toys but not at the insane level the older generations did.  They have other ways to entertain themselves now.

Offline lovesbabysquirmy

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Re: “Retro” Toys... When did they become so big?
« Reply #3 on: December 07, 2020, 11:18:43 PM »
The oldest members of GenX are going to be entering their mid-40's soon.  So there's lots of room for money-spending nostalgia.
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Offline Ponybookworm

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Re: “Retro” Toys... When did they become so big?
« Reply #4 on: December 08, 2020, 12:56:01 PM »
I AM GenX & in my mid 40s. I know this for a fact as my Dad was literally born in 1946 (yep, Boomers are OLD)

He grew up with computers, while between my youth & now, communication changed dramatically. I used a rotary phone as a child, & the only other way to keep in touch with others geographically distant was by letter. Nowadays you have emails & Facetime (COVID has made Facetime more widely used & as a result, ironed out what bugs remained in it).

Back then, when I was younger, games had to be stored on cassette tapes & they made these weird noises while they loaded onto Commodore 64s & ZX 80s. Board games were easier, card games were offline with a real deck of 52 & 2 jokers, & RPGs needed friends to gather together. Nowadays all that is available online.

All we had was physical items & our imaginations. Now you have whole digitalised worlds. That's why toys have changed so much.

I think another major factor, particularly in the UK, is the discovery of oil in the North Sea. As most toys of the 70s, 80s & 90s are plastic, this has huge significance. The 80s in particular were a hedonistic time, especially for children. Nowadays all everybody talks about is oil shortages, pollution & recycling, because we have to. The hedonism could only last so long.
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Offline lovesbabysquirmy

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Re: “Retro” Toys... When did they become so big?
« Reply #5 on: December 08, 2020, 02:30:39 PM »
exactly ponybookworm!  many good points
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Offline LadyAmalthea

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Re: “Retro” Toys... When did they become so big?
« Reply #6 on: December 08, 2020, 05:29:50 PM »
Lots of good points here! Also I think nowadays, reproductions are just easier to make, due to 3D printing and other technology, and more cost effective. People have probably always been nostalgic for the toys of their youth and want to recreate their childhood joy for their own kids (my mom was ecstatic when the Ginny doll line came back into production in the 80's and bought us kids a whole bunch of them...anyone remember those? And here I am doing it for my own kids with ponies!), but until now it was likely not so easy to procure the manufacturing equipment to make accurate copies of things.

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Re: “Retro” Toys... When did they become so big?
« Reply #7 on: December 14, 2020, 11:18:52 AM »
Many good points raised! I mean, you've already seen it with fashion and music, for example - every couple of decades, things resurface, and it's both about nostalgia (for those who witnessed it for the first time) and new generations discovering it. With toys we're perhaps truly seeing this for the first time now, since the mass production of toys didn't really start before the 80s (see Ponybookworm's post above). Of course it may have happened in a smaller scale like LadyAmalthea pointed out. My Mum had one Barbie doll from her youth and I remember me and my sister weren't too keen on the 60s Barbie. :lol: But I was super excited about her paper dolls featuring celebrities from the 60s/70s. Some of them I knew, most of them I didn't, but that didn't matter of course - I liked the ones I found the best looking, no matter who they were, haha. Still today I probably wouldn't know about all these old Finnish celebrities if it weren't for my Mum's paper dolls.  :P We would create new clothes for them together, and I actually played with them a lot at one point! At the time, paper dolls weren't really a thing anymore or they were something generally aimed at younger kids. But Mum's dolls were pretty and had such amazing clothes, like evening gowns and such! And although Mum would sometimes make us new Barbie clothes, or buy custom clothes from craft fairs, it was so much quicker and simpler to create new clothing for paper dolls.

I also think us Millennials (and GenX, too, I guess?) are particularly prone to nostalgisation. I know I am... Apparently this is caused by the rapid technologisation & digitalisation. The 80s/90s lifestyle was not sustainable by any means so I'm kind of ashamed to admit I long for those times, particularly the 90s characterised by a certain air of hopefulness. But I guess life is always simpler when you're a child and not aware of all the political undercurrents and such... And of course the steps against the climate change should've been taken back then. Kids today can't afford to avoid these discussions and it makes me sad.  :(
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Re: “Retro” Toys... When did they become so big?
« Reply #8 on: December 14, 2020, 08:09:00 PM »
I think it's pretty straightforward nostalgic-based marketing... Either for a parent to give their kids a childhood favorite toy, or for someone to relive their childhood.

Especially now. Right now, the world seems to be in a dark place. (ETA: it was not so great even before 2020, for multiple reasons.) Nostalgia can hit an emotional connection of times that felt more optimistic.

Sometimes people can feel nostalgia for earlier times as well. For instance, just because I was born in the 80s didn't mean that I didn't experience older things. My grandparents' decor, or toys at their house didn't just disappear every decade. I played with vintage toys there.. and somehow have nostalgia for mid-century decor.
« Last Edit: December 14, 2020, 08:39:47 PM by banditpony »
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Re: “Retro” Toys... When did they become so big?
« Reply #9 on: December 14, 2020, 09:03:26 PM »
Nostalgia makes money without having to invest in all-new stuff that could potentially be a failure and takes more energy, time and resources to develop. It's the same reason why there are so many remakes, re-imagenings, reboots and so on in the movie and TV industry.

Plus what others have said, moneygrabbers have noticed the many childless or childish adults who embrace "identity building" based on consumerism. People don't want to fully let go of their childhood, so designs and characters that remind them of it are more popular.

I'll say that some design aspects are simply evergreens. Like Mary Blair's artstyle is so popular with illustrators these days, not because they all love Disney but because it seems to have a timeless appeal. Some of the retro toys will attract kids without knowing about the nostalgia factor.
« Last Edit: December 14, 2020, 09:06:20 PM by Zapper »

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Re: “Retro” Toys... When did they become so big?
« Reply #10 on: December 15, 2020, 09:25:02 AM »
Both Ponybookworm & Banditpony hit the nail right on the head.

Also,
Sometimes people can feel nostalgia for earlier times as well. For instance, just because I was born in the 80s didn't mean that I didn't experience older things. My grandparents' decor, or toys at their house didn't just disappear every decade. I played with vintage toys there.. and somehow have nostalgia for mid-century decor.


Man I feel that hard. I was a 90s kid of late 70's parents who were teens/became young adults in the 80's. I feel nostalgia for all sorts of stuff that no one my age ever seems to, lmao.
At least my boyfriend grew up very similarly & enjoys things from those eras as well, lol.

Anywhere I go all the friends I make seem to be in their 30s, lol.
« Last Edit: December 15, 2020, 09:29:10 AM by Esbayne »
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Offline starcatcher

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Re: “Retro” Toys... When did they become so big?
« Reply #11 on: January 14, 2021, 05:35:23 PM »
Both Ponybookworm & Banditpony hit the nail right on the head.

Also,
Sometimes people can feel nostalgia for earlier times as well. For instance, just because I was born in the 80s didn't mean that I didn't experience older things. My grandparents' decor, or toys at their house didn't just disappear every decade. I played with vintage toys there.. and somehow have nostalgia for mid-century decor.


Man I feel that hard. I was a 90s kid of late 70's parents who were teens/became young adults in the 80's. I feel nostalgia for all sorts of stuff that no one my age ever seems to, lmao.
At least my boyfriend grew up very similarly & enjoys things from those eras as well, lol.

Anywhere I go all the friends I make seem to be in their 30s, lol.

I'm in the same boat as well - though I grew up in the 2000's (Born in the very late 90's). I have a older sister who grew up in the 90's and later developed an affinity for 80's movies while I was a kid, which more or less made me develop a lot of the same interests and developed nostalgia for eras I wasn't present in. Additionally, a lot of the toys (at least the ones I grew up with?) were reboots of toys from the 80's-90's. MLP, Furby, Littlest Pet Shop, Puppy Surprise... ect. I kind of feel like anyone who grew up with those iterations and still appreciate them as an adult probably have a passing knowledge of the original toys. Nostalgia is kind of the gift that keeps on giving for toy companies - it never fails to bring in a profit. It's also less risky to repop an old toy rather than create an entirely new franchise.

Speaking of which, what does everyone think is the best "new" retro toy? I really like the new Pound Puppies, though I wish their patterns were as diverse as the original 80's toys.

 

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